Directed by John Curran. Starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich, Frances Conroy, Peter Lewis, Sarab Kamoo. (2010, R, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Oct. 22, 2010
The first time you see the quintessentially clean-cut Edward Norton in Stone, the effect is startling – corn rows? – but it's when he opens his mouth that the jaw really drops. Norton's voice comes out high and thin, somewhere between a coo and reedy whine. He plays convicted felon Stone, trying to convince somebody, anybody, to let him out for good behavior. Parole officer Jack (De Niro) oversees his case – it's his last one before retirement – and very quickly Jack finds himself uncharacteristically invested in Stone and his flighty, manipulative wife, Lucetta (Jovovich). In a role that requires far more than the aerobic workout of her Resident Evil franchise, Jovovich is something to behold, working every angle of a complicated character who, minute to minute, slinks between the role of a devoted wife, a seductive schemer, and a sunny, ostensible innocent. The rest of the cast is just as good; in a less showy but still essential part, Six Feet Under's Conroy practically folds her body into itself as Jack's drab, defeated wife who seeks solace in drink and the Bible. Screenwriter Angus MacLachlan (Junebug) takes an interesting sideways approach into examining spirituality. Religion infuses the film, at first casually in the automatic prayer before supper and the backgrounded Christian talk radio (the film, in general, does some wonderfully subtle things with its soundscape), and then more overtly, as Jack begins to openly question his faith and Stone, the consummate conman, spies in a religious conversion a way to sway the parole board. Director Curran (The Painted Veil) occasionally allows the film's tone to tip into hysteria (a bee metaphor is particularly belabored), but mostly this is a tense, portentous, and provocative piece.